The biggest draw for the Mexican city of Morelia is its well-preserved historic center. Amble along downtown streets filled with Spanish colonial churches, palaces and mansions, all built with pink volcanic stone. Today, many of these buildings house restaurants, museums and hotels.
Morelia was one of the first cities built by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. Originally called Valladolid, its name was changed in 1828 to honor José María Morelos y Pavón, a hero of Mexican independence.
Start your historic tour in the colossal baroque Morelia Cathedral with two 230-feet (70-meter) towers. Inside are frescoes and an organ with 4,600 pipes. Return on Saturday nights to see the lighting of the cathedral accompanied by music and fireworks.
Visit the 18th-century Government Palace to see large murals depicting the history of Mexico’s independence movement. Nearby is the Museo Casa Natal de Morelos where the revolutionary leader was born. The house is now a museum chronicling his life. A short walk east, marvel at the ancient aqueduct supported by more than 200 arches.
In late October, more than 60 million monarch butterflies migrate from Canada and the U.S. to western central Mexico’s forests. Take a daytrip to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, a protected area 2 hours east of Morelia in the mountains of Michoacán. Observe colonies of colorful flying insects in pine and oyamel firs.
Less than an hour’s drive from Morelia is Lake Pátzcuaro. Browse artisan shops in the lakeside villages. Take a boat to the Isla Janitzio, a small island in the lake. Stroll up the hill to see the statue of Morelos. Along the way, visit restaurants and souvenir shops.
Fly into Morelia’s international airport and explore the city by bus, taxi or rental car. Enjoy other attractions besides history and nature. Listen to the boys’ choir at the Conservatory of the Roses, sample fruit “ates” in the museum dedicated to sweets and dine in restaurants serving regional specialties. Plan to enjoy Morelia’s warm days and cool nights year-round.